7 marines killed in clash with abus in sulu

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Seven Marines, including a junior officer, were killed and 21 other soldiers were wounded in a clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits early Thursday in the forests of Patikul, Sulu province, the military said.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said the Marines suffered casualties but overran a camp of the bandit group known to have links to al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist network.

In Zamboanga City, Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, the Westmincom spokesperson, said the military was not yet able to say if there were any Abu Sayyaf casualties.

He told the Inquirer that the clash between soldiers from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 11 and Abu Sayyaf gunmen took place in Barangay Panglahayan at 4:30 a.m.

The bandits were led by Radulan Sahiron, an Abu Sayyaf leader also known by his alias, Putol, Cabangbang said.

Gecko trader

Soldiers have been combing Sulu for weeks in search of kidnap victims, among them a Malaysian gecko trader and an Indian national.

“Based on the report they sent to us, the troops were conducting a maneuver operation since Wednesday night, and at early dawn they hit a big camp of the Abu Sayyaf. It was when the fight started,” Cabangbang said.

He said the Marines were able to penetrate the camp “but the militants were positioned on higher ground, that’s why we had casualties.”

Despite the large number of military casualties, the Abu Sayyaf gunmen withdrew into the woods after five hours of fighting and government forces captured the bandits’ hideout.

Strategic victory

At the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Quezon City, the AFP spokesperson, Commodore Miguel Rodriguez, said the military scored a strategic victory when the Marines overran the Abu Sayyaf camp in Sulu “at a loss of seven gallant Marines.”

Paying tribute to the Marines who gave their lives in the operation, Rodriguez said: “Nothing is free. We understand the nature of our profession… when we have to put our lives on the line so we can get rid our country of terrorism.”

“We are saddened by the fact that we have casualties in the incident,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a news briefing in Malacañang.

“But that is the role of our military men and women, to defend our country against enemies within and without,” Lacierda said.

Hunt continues

Rodriguez said at the Camp Aguinaldo briefing that operations would continue against the Abu Sayyaf.

He said Sahiron and another Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnelon Hapilon, were among the “high-value targets” being hunted down.

Sahiron and Hapilon were sighted during the attack on the camp, Rodriguez said.

“There is a determined effort to eradicate them. We’re not giving up easily. The encounter was very close… (that’s why) we have suffered casualties,” the military spokesperson told reporters.

He said the Abu Sayyaf fought hard to defend the encampment “as it would be weakness on their part if they did not do so.”

“They would find it difficult to regain control of the camp. The troops’ determination led to the capture of that encampment… We were the ones who attacked them,” Rodriguez said.

Casualty figures

Asked about casualties on the bandits’ side, he replied: “Definitely (there are casualties). It was a close fight. But… we are still waiting for the report.”

Cabangbang said that initially, two soldiers were reported dead and that five others were missing.

“Later in the day the five missing were found dead, which explains why the figure rose (to seven),” Cabangbang said.

But Brig. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo, the Sulu military commander, maintained that only six soldiers were killed.

“It was a major encounter,” Tanalgo said without providing additional details.

A military source privy to the retrieval of slain and wounded soldiers confirmed Cabangbang’s figure and added that among those killed was a second lieutenant.

Wounded soldiers

Cabangbang said the wounded soldiers were extricated from the encounter site.

He said Westmincom deployed four helicopters (two MG520s and two Hueys) and a Navy boat to help bring the wounded soldiers to hospitals. Bad weather caused some delays in the evacuation of the wounded.

Hot pursuit

Marine soldiers, backed by air, sea and ground support, continued to comb the slopes of Mounts Tunggol and Gasam following the clash with some 70 Abu Sayyaf gunmen, Tanalgo told Inquirer in a text message.

Soldiers recovered a rocket-propelled grenade launcher left behind by the fleeing gunmen but there were no reports of enemy casualty yet, he said.

“As the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) scampered from the pursuing Marines. Forces from the AFP supported by air and naval assets have joined the hot pursuit,” Tanalgo said.

The Marines have been battling the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and other areas of Mindanao for years.

In 2007, the Marines suffered their worst debacle when gunmen identified with the Abu Sayyaf beheaded and mutilated 14 soldiers in Basilan.

Hapilon

Despite the deaths of most of its senior leaders, the Abu Sayyaf has remained a security threat.

The US government has offered a $5-million reward for Hapilon’s capture.

Sahiron, an aging Abu Sayyaf figure who has a $1-million bounty on his head, is easily identified because he lost his right hand fighting security forces in the 1970s.

The Abu Sayyaf also has been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks.

These include the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people, as well as a string of high-profile abductions targeting foreigners and locals.

US troops

Hundreds of US troops have been deployed in Jolo and other parts of Mindanao since 2002 to help eliminate the Abu Sayyaf.

However, the American soldiers are only allowed to train Filipino soldiers, and not engage in any combat operation.

The Philippine and US militaries have described their joint operations in Mindanao as a success, saying the Abu Sayyaf threat has diminished and its numbers are down to just a few hundred.

However, Thursday’s clash shows the Abu Sayyaf is still able to conduct deadly operations.

Kidnappings

There have also been a string of kidnappings in Mindanao in recent months that authorities suspect have involved the Abu Sayyaf.

The military and police blamed the Abu Sayyaf for kidnapping a Malaysian trader in Jolo in May. The kidnappers have demanded an P8-million ransom for his release.

The Abu Sayyaf was also blamed for kidnapping an Indian national who was visiting his Filipino wife’s hometown in Jolo last month. No ransom demand, if any, has been made public. With reports from Norman Bordadora, AFP and AP

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  • Anonymous

    Hundreds of thousands of AFP troops aided by hundreds of US forces and their modern military equipment against 300 ASG bandits who continue to inflict heavy casualties on government troops……….ASG bandits are based only in an island (15th biggest island) spanning 1,600 square kilometers. I guess PMA is useless because it wasn’t able to produce a good general who could flush out 300 bandits in an island like sulu even with the help of remaining superpower US. US with the help of NATO forces was able to drive Taliban and Al Qaeda numbering to tens or hundreds of thousands from several areas in Afghanistan. How could a small island like sulu be so difficult for AFP and the US to cleanse of any insurgents and ASG bandits?

    • http://www-blogjosemig200905com.blogspot.com/ Jose Miguel Garcia

      Let us be less harsh with our words to the filipino soldiers among us than to those who are the underlying cause of our present status.  Instead of cursing the symptoms, let us cut out the underlying cause. Before we can cut it out, let us identify it.  Before we can identify it, let us trace it.

      In the 1600s to the 1800s there was a developmental intercourse of events and people including the natural character of our founding fathers of that time that developed the conception of Filipinas.  This developed into a revolution that drove us to a separation from the womb of Madre España and be born as a Filipino Nation in 1898.  From revolutionary, we became a republican nation.  

      We inherited the organic national developmental code from the founding fathers of our nation. This unwritten code was the factor inherent in us, in: producing a national character and identity that binds us, as a nation; driving the direction of our development; and providing coherence and continiuity of development thru generations.

      Carrying that unwritten code within us, as a nation, we developed a system of politics, defense, judiciary, economy, and education.  Being an infant nation, we struggled to be united, to adapt to the situation, and to control our resources and the direction of our development.  

      But shortly thereafter of the same year, the very foreign north americans invaded our nation.  It was a proving moment for us by how we would have responded to an overwhelming stress.  With our infant systems including our defense system, and without any aid from any other nation, we mounted a fierce defense force to engage the most powerful nation in the world, the aggressor forces of the north americans.  It was our first encounter with a foreign aggressor force as a filipno nation.  We lost in many battles but we also defeated them in a number of documented battles like Balangiga, Mabitac, Pulang Lupa, etc.  So potent were our defenses that the powerful north americans were not able to break the whole of such defenses for years. They had to resort to massive kidnappings, hostage-takings, and extermination of the civilians among us for which those of the defense forces among us were forced to give in to their demand for us to surrender.

      Down south, the north americans tampered with the development of that area of our nation, with their Bates Agreement of 1899.  It established a kind of national development that mutated into one of disintegrating development of one part of the nation from the development of the other parts of the nation.  It was a masterful divide and rule stroke of the enemy forces to disintegrate the whole of our national defense system. It has a profound consequence to our national development including national security, today.  

      It was under the aforementioned circumstances that weakened our physical external defenses. 700,000 to 1,000,000 of us filipinos died in that now inactivated Filipino-North American War.  

      As a result, the north americans took over without resistance from us, control of our resources and development of our systems including our political, defense, economic and education.  These resulted to our organic national developmental code within our systems, being cut off from us. They replaced it with a developmental code they synthesized which directed our development towards functioning to sustain the growth of the north american nation.

      At their initial penetration of our defense system, they took brother filipinos into the Philippine Constabulary, their auxilliary corps to engage brother filipinos of the filipino defense force.  Gradually, their auxilliary corps, Philippine Constabulary later transformed into the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  Later, more soldiers among us either died or surrendered that we were cut off from our organic filipino defense forces- our original defense system.

      In the 1900s, we were gradually shifting our defense front towards the other invaders, the chinese who were overrunning our economic bases.  We gradually shifted our mode of defense towards the developmental mode.  The north americans blocked our resistance against the chinese overruning of our economic bases.  This further weakened our economy enough to render us filipinos perpetually economically dependent. This resulted to our having become perpetually impotent in defending our nation against foreign occupation.

      This has become the characteristics of the soldiers among us: fierce and potent against brother filipinos who happen to be criminals, and even against brother filipinos resisting the puppets of the north americans; but impotent against foreign invasion and control.  

      This was how our defense force, an external defense force was replaced by an auxilliary armed corps of the north americans in the Philippines.  It has been castrated to perpetually remain and not grow beyond counterinsurgency capability. As a result, our nation has perpetually remained impotent in defending ourselves against foreign control. For decades, we have never been able to be independent.

      And so it was, that their having replaced our organic national developmental code with their own synthesized developmental code, has directed our development for generations to be orderly, legally, and democratically effective for the development of the United States of America.

      We, the whole filipino people, including the soldiers among us, are the victims.  They, the north americans, have been the underlying cause of our impotency to heal our chronic pathological development including our security status.  

      Now that we know, let us move to reverse this national disease process.  But let us disseminate this information to our people.

  • abmatibay

    THE MIGHTY AMERICANS WITH ITS NATO ALLIES ARE STILL UNABLE TO DEFEAT THE TALIBANS AND AL-QAEDA. US MILITARY REPRESENTATIVES ARE ACTUALLY TALKING WITH THE TALIBANS NOW FOR A PEACE SETTLEMENT…BUT THE TALIBANS REJECTED IT.

  • abmatibay

    ON SECOND THOUGHT, WAR IS A BIG BUSINESS

  • Anonymous

    AFP should discipline its generals who are engaging in illegal money-making schemes and instead allocate decent budget for the soldiery like those being killed in combat.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DTP3UJPBWLGVNPC2DWTY66JXYQ Arghee

    The Military official said..hindi sila nakag responde sa nasabing engkwentro because of the weather..ang pinagta2 ko..why should they command nah mag operate ang kanilang sundalo KUNG ALAM NILANG HINDI SILA 
    MAKA2PAGRESPONDE IN CASE OF EMERGENCY..akala ko pah naman matalino ang mga opisyal SABI AKALA DAW NILA HINDI GANUN KARAMI MAKA2LABAN NILA..WELL MARAMING NAMAMATAY SA MALING AKALA..ang alam ko jan set up lng para maibah usapan tungkol sa anumalya ng mga opisyal..they have to sacrifice their soldiers..hay naku..pilipino talaga..

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